The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 84.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Four MIT Students Win Harvard Undergraduate Physics Contest

By Gbor Csnyi
Staff Reporter

For the second year running, a team of undergraduate Physics majors won the Boston Area Undergraduate Physics Competition.

The contest was started last year by the Harvard University Graduate Problem Group in an attempt to provide physics undergraduates with an exam similar to the annual William Lowell Putnam Examination in mathematics.

Harvard came second in the team portion of the competition. Ranking is set by tallying the scores of the three best-finishing students from each university. Overall 44 students participated from MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University, and Boston University.

Harvard's Lenny Ng took the $250 first prize; MIT's Mike B. Schulz '96 came second and was awarded $150. Iosif L. Bena '97, Sergei Krupenin '98, and Charles M. Santori '97 tied for third place and won $50 each.

"We don't feel at all bad about losing to Lenny, if we had to lose to someone," Schultz said. "He has won the Putnam exam many times, and is the only person ever to get a perfect score on the American High School Math Exam all four years of high school. After three years at Harvard, he has seen the light, and is coming to MIT for graduate study in the fall," he said.

Last year, Schultz, Bena, Krupenin, and Santori ranked first through fourth.

The problems, which come from classical mechanics and electromagnetism, are usually very difficult: The average score on the exam was 22 out of 60, while the highest score was 44.

The test stresses physical thinking rather than knowledge of material; the only requirements are freshman-level math and physics. A typical problem might involve a complicated resistor network, say a planar square lattice, or a cube with the edges and diagonals as resistors, and participants would be asked to find currents and resistances between various points.